Our Story

A Great British success story

To really get to know the Cotton Traders story, you need to go back...way back! 16 years before we were established, to be precise, to a time before the company was even a sparkle in anyone’s eye.

The 1970s

It all started on a college rugby pitch in 1970, when Fran Cotton & Steve Smith first met in Loughborough.

"We didn’t get on so well at first. I kept thinking, who’s this cheeky so-and-so? But in the end, we hit it off and we’ve been team-mates ever since!"

Not long after they met, Fran recieved his first call-up and cap in 1971 and was joined on the international stage by Steve the following year. Throughout the decade the two friends took part in prestigious tours to South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, The USA and Canada.

The 1980s

1980 saw the end of Fran & Steve’s illustrious rugby careers as they looked to the future. They joined Bukta sportswear, that was responsible for producing alot of sport team’s kits around this era. It was here they honed and learnt the clothing trade, and in 1987, in a small office in Altrincham, Cotton Traders was born.

The 1987

Cotton Traders is born

The 1987

Cotton Traders is born

Choosing a name

"It took us maybe two minutes to come up with the name. Interestingly, you can’t normally trademark the word 'Cotton' because it’s a fabric - but you can if it’s someone’s name!"

The White Story

The guys decided to risk everything with an advertisement in a Sunday paper - the advert was later dubbed 'The White Story', and is remembered as one of the most successful adverts in the history of 'off the page'.

The 1990s

The early 90’s brought with them Cotton Traders’ first replica licensing agreement with the Rugby Football Union, first with England in 1991, followed by other countries, including Wales in 1992 and South Africa in 1994.

1995: Nelson Mandela sports Cotton Traders

At the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa, Cotton Traders shirts were everywhere but one of the most memorable moments of the whole tournament was when Nelson Mandela handed Francois Pienaar the World Cup trophy wearing a Cotton Traders classic of his very own!

1997: NEXT join the team

Catalogue big-leagues, NEXT, join Cotton Traders and help us springboard to the next level with our own catalogues and stock distribution

1998: Our first retail store

Cotton Traders opens its first retail store at Cheshire Oaks. We go on to open countless more nationwide.

The 2000s

2001: We open our first garden centre store

2002: Our website launches

The turn of the millennium saw the business go online. The clothing collections quickly start to grow and we start shipping further afield to ex-pats and new customers overseas.

2005: The brand couple

Marcus and Natanja start their 20-year journey together as the faces of Cotton Traders. It might surprise you to know that they're not a couple, picture-perfect as they are, just very good friends!

2009: On the big screen

Clint Eastwood's 'Invictus' shows in cinemas, starring Matt Damon, Morgan Freeman & lots of Cotton Traders shirts!

The 2010s

In 2010, Cotton Traders partners with Help for Heroes as their official charity partner. We added an optional donation to each purchase on our website, with all proceeds going directly to Help for Heroes. In 2012, we start designing an exclusive Help for Heroes collection!

2013: Fran & Steve pass the ball

After almost 30 years leading their team from success to success, Fran & Steve decide to take a step back and hand over the armband to the directors of the company.

2015: Hello, Ireland & Australia!

After delivering our products to countless countries across the world, we widen our horizons by launching websites for our Australian and Irish customers.

In 2018, we look to break America too!


raised for Help for Heroes

In 2018 Cotton Traders, in under 10 years, we raise a staggering £1,000,000 for Help for Heroes. With a big thanks to all those that participated in charity events or those who donated with their purchases or in-store

2019: #5WaysToWear

In 2019, Cotton Traders launches its first primetime TV campaign regionally in Wales, the North West and South East England. The Feel Good Coat flies out and is worn in even more ways than we could have hoped with our #5WaysToWear campaign!